Far Rock Kids Discover America’s Oldest Sport
Lined up at mid-field, red against yellow, were children from Far Rockaway ages 7 through 12 dressed head toe in lacrosse equipment, as they awaited the first face-off of the first game of lacrosse ever played by kids this young in New York City. On one end of the brand-new turf field lay empty boxes labeled Brine and STX from which the children were given lacrosse sticks, helmets, shoulder pads, gloves and elbow pads. A group of roughly 40 was bused in from six Rockaway community centers: Ocean Bay, Carlton Manor, Hammels Housing, Beach 41 and Redfern. The smallest of the group, seven-year-old Deshaun "Woody" Young, was only slightly taller than his lacrosse stick.
For the most part the kids had only heard of lacrosse in passing. Even the coaches only possessed a limited knowledge of lacrosse discerned from watching televised games. Lacrosse has been long delayed in coming to Queens. Due in part to the exorbitant cost of equipment it had never made sense economically for lacrosse, long favored in the suburbs, to make the jump to the inner city. But thanks to the hard work of Coach Greg Carter in conjunction with the Housing Authority, Councilman James Sanders and Chase, every Wednesday this summer America’s oldest sport, lacrosse, will be played at Far Rockaway High School.
The lacrosse clinic run by the Housing Authority is a pilot program stationed exclusively in Rockaway. If it is successful the program may spread to the other four boroughs. "The long term goal is to set it up so that [the lacrosse program] is in all five boroughs," said Tonnie Rozier, Sports Manager of Citywide Programs for the Housing Authority. Another goal of Rozier’s is to turn the program into a league complete with an inter-borough playoff.
Coach Carter of the Rockaway Sports Association has spent the last several years working to bring youth lacrosse to Rockaway. "I’ve been waiting for this for four years, till it finally came to pass," said Carter. A principal partner in the quest to bring youth lacrosse to Queens was the Housing Authority. "The biggest thing was making sure there was an interest, as you can see there is," said Rozier, pointing to the 40 kids suited in lacrosse equipment. He hoped that lacrosse would provide the kids with an alternative to the customary city sports of basketball and baseball.
The kids were initially extremely curious of a sport, which they had never seen played before. "I want to hit people," said Naquon Smith. While Emmanuel James came to "play catch with the sticks." Whatever their reason for attending the clinic, not one kid asked to leave early.
It is too early to tell, if lacrosse will catch-on in Queens with the fervor that surrounds the game on Long Island. But the kids were having fun - learning how to pass, catch and shoot – and staying out of trouble. "We try to keep the kids off the street, cut some of this fighting out," said Deacon Willie Tipton. "That’s what its mostly about."